“People are so closely linked in the North End, that once one person achieves something, they want to help their neighbors do it, too. It’s the most beautiful chain reaction you’ve ever seen.”
I have an incredible relationship with this town. My family lived in an apartment building in the North End until I was five years old. My grandmother was a bartender and many of my afternoons as a kid were spent sitting at the bar, drinking Pepsi and eating Jones potato chips. Life in the North End was full of family and friends, sharing and bartering. People who don’t have a lot of money are incredibly resourceful. You learn to value relationships and appreciate so many different ways of living. It was such a vibrant and beautiful neighborhood then, and it still is now.
I moved away from Mansfield for two years, but once I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I came right back. I wanted to raise her here. This area will always be home to me. No matter where I move or where I live, this is home.
My family didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of standards: how to live, how to act, how to engage in our community. My father was a fireman, so our Saturdays were spent pulling weeds at the firemen’s fields. We were also expected to help with parades and keep up with volunteering throughout high school. I think I became a Community Health Worker because my mother instilled these lessons in me.
My job is to help people reach their goals by connecting them to resources and removing any barriers they’re facing. Removing a barrier could be something as simple as providing them with transportation or business-appropriate clothing, or it could be something like getting them access to childcare or helping them address a health issue. Whether their goal is finding a job, retaining a job, pursuing an education, raising a child, becoming financially secure, or even just becoming engaged in their community, I work hard to help them reach it.
I’ve worked in social services for thirty years, yet I learn something new everyday from my clients. I am so grateful for the trust they put in the process. It’s because of their honesty that we’re able to help them make true changes.
One of my favorite programs is helping expecting mothers. We’ll make sure they get to the doctor, teach them about healthy lifestyles, and expose them to a variety of parenting tools. We never say ‘this is exactly how you have to raise your kids,’ instead we help them find an approach that works for them. But I always make sure to tell people about the benefits of reading to their children! It’s amazing to know that you’re going to have a positive effect on the next generation. I also enjoy helping people take ‘next steps’ once they meet their initial goals. For example, if their goal was to maintain a job, we’ll focus on financial stability next. We set up meetings with local bankers who work one on one with people to help them improve their credit scores so that one day they can buy a house or a car.
Everyone is capable and everyone has a future, they just might not know how to get there. Often people have to focus on questions like ‘How are we going to get our next meal?’ and don’t have time to think about anything beyond the current day. So a big part of my job is helping teach people that skill. You can have a goal all day long, but without a plan and a time frame it won’t come to fruition. It’s incredible what people can achieve once they make a plan.
I think it’s also important to help people feel like they belong. If someone is nervous to go to an appointment, I tell them I’ll meet them there. If I show up, they show up. If they’re taking a class at NECIC, I make sure I’m in the building on their first day to walk with them to the classroom. I also encourage everyone to get involved in their community by coming to events like Neighbor Up Night, and by making an effort to help each other. People are so closely linked in the North End, that once one person achieves something, they want to help their neighbors do it, too. It’s the most beautiful chain reaction you’ve ever seen.
Every night I review every interaction I had that day, even if it was just talking to someone on the phone for a few minutes. I ask myself, did I value that person and their time? Did I treat our relationship with respect? In working with people, things are always subject to change. There’s always moving parts to every project. The only thing I can do is ensure that I’ve taken good care of every relationship I have. As human beings we are all absolutely obligated to lend each other joy, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness.